Getting ready for the career you love

Posted on February 13, 2017


Starting a career can be daunting, yet nothing beats doing what you love. Martin Luther King Jnr put it so well when he said, 'If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.'

Prof Kobus Maree, from the Department of Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria (UP), has the following advice for students on choosing a fulfilling career:

At the end of Grade 12, most learners apply to study at the tertiary training institutions of their choice. Many apply for several fields of study at different universities, for instance, one individual may apply for enrolment in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. If a prospective student is accepted for only one of the three, the choice appears obvious. However, sometimes applicants who apply at different universities are accepted into two or three fields of study and do not know which to choose. How can they resolve this matter?

Firstly, they should have explored these fields of study and the associated careers thoroughly long before they applied. It is irresponsible and short-sighted to wait until the crisis is upon you.

Secondly, it is essential do conduct thorough job analysis to help you finalise your choice of a career. If you have not done this already, start doing so right away. Job analysis – obtaining and analysing career-related information – promotes self-efficacy (students' belief in their ability to perform a given task or assignment successfully), contributes to resolving career indecision, bolsters students' knowledge about the world of work, and addresses their subjective experience of a career. Job analysis can best be achieved by carrying out a combination of the following activities:

  • Shadowing employees – spending a few days with practising professionals in their actual work environments
  • Conducting interviews with employees and employers – it is essential to prepare thoroughly for every interview, including arriving at the interview with a number of carefully pre-planned questions
  • Reading as much as you can about careers – in print or online
  • Watching and analysing videos on specific careers and fields of study
  • Doing part-time (temporary) work, for example, holiday work, where the execution of this type of work is viable
  • Volunteering your services at churches, mines, banking institutions, or any other institution that offers activities related to any of the dream careers you have in mind
  • Analysing documents that contain up-to-date information about the world of careers
  • Visiting career exhibitions, expos and training institutions, and attending open and information days and career displays
  • Using the Internet to peruse relevant websites such as Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Organising mentorship and engaging in vicarious learning – for example, observing and learning from role models
  • Consulting final-year students and lecturers at universities about various aspects of their fields of study
  • Comparing the different institutions where one's chosen field of study (for example, accounting) is offered, in terms of course fees, structure of the course, degree or diploma, number of applicants who find work post-study and pass board entrance exams, and so on

By doing a thorough job analysis, you take ownership of your own career-life story. Ideally, you should approach a career counsellor to not only 'test' you but, more importantly, help you identify your main life themes. For example, do you want to help people in need, fight for the rights of others, counsel adolescents, help people become healthy again, or take care of the spiritual needs of others?

If you have not done thorough job analysis at this late stage, start doing so today. Look through the above list and see what is still possible. Can you, for instance, talk with and observe three dentists at work or do part-time work in their practice? Ask yourself the following questions about future careers:

  • Will the career help me realise my key life theme? Such a career might involve healing others; counselling or helping young people to realise their potential; teaching maths to pupils from resource-poor contexts; preserving the environment; helping people who feel 'unattractive'; taking care of cancer sufferers, the aged or people living in poverty; standing up for people who have been or are being bullied; or protecting your country. Ideally, you should consult a career counsellor to help you identify your key life themes.
  • What is the biggest pain I suffered, especially when I was very young – something that I do not want others to suffer? For instance, you may have been humiliated, stood by helplessly as your beloved mother died from cancer, or seen friends hit by cars, some of whom subsequently died as the nearest hospital was far away. By helping others overcome this pain, you can heal yourself.
  • Will I be able to find employment only in South Africa, or can I work abroad as well? Fields of study that are in high demand are usually those that lead to professional registration, such as medicine (including nursing, medical technology), engineering, accountancy, psychology, plumbing, and electrical engineering. Other fields in high demand include information-communication technology, data analysis, bio-technology, technical fields, and teaching.
  • Is this field expanding or are companies that offer this kind of work down-scaling?
  • Will the qualification enable me to become employable instead of merely finding a job? Today, very few people stay in one career for the whole of their lives.
  • Will the qualification enable me to become self-employed?
  • What are the chances that I will become redundant or be laid off in the near future?
  • What major changes are people expecting to see in this career over the next few years?
  • Is the field saturated? Are more people entering the field than can realistically be accommodated?
  • What will my salary be when I start working and what are the future projections in this regard?
  • What courses are available to help me grow, develop and remain relevant and employable?
  • Does the field offer a good 'fit' between my traits and preferences (for example, working with people), and the job requirements and circumstances?

Interested learners/students are encouraged to visit YouTube and watch the following clips carefully:

You will immediately be able to make the connection between the two clips and hopefully discover the power of the new approach to career counselling.


For more information about finding the career you love visit



- Author Mikateko Mbambo

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